It will now be harder for victims of online harassment to pursue criminal actions against their tormentors. In a 7-2 decision that came down this month, the Court ruled in Elonis vs. United States that a person making a threat on social media has to possess an objective intent to threaten a victim. It's not good enough for the victim to believe the threat to be real. No, the threatener must also believe that the threat is real, even if they ultimately decide not to carry it out. While the idea of intent (or mens rea) has forever been a staple of criminal law, the actual effect, mainly on women, is hard to ignore.Read More
In the wake of their Spidey problem, Sony worked out a deal to allow old webhead to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe and share the screen with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk. Marvel will develop and produce a new Spider-Man film under its own Banner (pun intended) to be released in 2017 while the rights to the character will remain with Sony.Read More
It's been fascinating to watch an institution as uniquely American as free speech take on such global heft over the last few months, particularly in the wake of the terrorist assault on French magazine Charlie Hebdo last week. When the Pope - the leader of an institution not known for its progressive stance on civil rights - publicly states that liberty of expression keeps the world out of danger, you know that it doesn't belong to us anymore.Read More
It’s really really really really really really really hard to avoid infringing on copyrights, even if you’re a big multi-national corporation. Sony should have known better, but there is just so much content out there - visual, musical, and otherwise - and the internet has made it tremendously easy to access all of it instantly and without much forethought.Read More
It’s been a weird couple of months for Ellen Page, the elfin actress behind Juno. A few months ago, her likeness was stolen for the hit video game The Last of Us. Now, a video game that she actually participated in and lent her likeness to, Beyond: Two Souls, has featured her in a digital nude shower scene, pictures of which leaked without her consent, and which show the whole shebang.
Let's talk about The Last of Us first. Back in June, the video game made a splash, and not just because it was a critical hit. One of the game's main characters, Ellie, looked suspiciously like Page, so much so that people were asking Page if she acted in the game (she didn't). In fact, early concept art of Ellie art didn't just resemble Page, it was clearly her face. Behold!
The one on the left is the concept art of Ellie and the middle is the version of Ellie that appears in the game, altered to look less like Page. If you're not convinced by these side-by-sides, just google "last of us ellen page" and you'll see comparison after comparison. What's striking is how even after the developer, Naughty Dog, changed Ellie's appearance, she pretty much still looks just like Page.
Anyway, Page caught wind of this and instead of suing the pants off Naughty Dog, she said this:
I guess I should be flattered that they ripped off my likeness, but I am actually acting in a video game called Beyond: Two Souls, so it was not appreciated.
Naughty Dog is pretty lucky Page isn't lawsuit-happy because she has a solid case for Appropriation of Likeness, a tort that prohibits the use of someone's name or likeness for commercial purposes without their consent (in California, name and likeness are actually protected by statute - California Civil Code Section 3344(a)). If she decided to sue, she could put Naughty Dog out of business.
So now we arrive at Beyond: Two Souls, the game that Page actually participated in by doing the voice and motion capture (see pic above) for her character. At one point, the game features a scene with digital version of Page's character taking a shower, all of her lady parts tastefully obscured. Unfortunately, pictures from a developers-only version of the game leaked out, showing those lady parts in their entirety (Page, of course, did not pose nude for this scene. She filmed her role wearing a mo-cap suit - a leotard fitted with digital nodes that capture her movement).
Who's to blame? The game's developer, Quantic Dream, seems like the obvious target since it made the nude model to begin with; without the model, this controversy would never have arisen (in the law, we call this "direct causation"). But Quantic Dream claims that it made it impossible to view the model's lady parts within the course of normal gameplay. Their story is that an unauthorized developer took the model and filled in the blanks, as it were. So is Quantic Dream off the hook because someone found a way to view that model in an unintended way? And even if Quantic Dream was the right party, could Page sue the company for Appropriation of Likeness? She did permit the use of her face, after all, but does her "likeness" extend to her other features? Consider also that since Page didn't actually pose nude, all the "blanks" that were filled in by the unauthorized developer were done from imagination - does that alter the analysis? At this stage, it's unknown whether Page had an anti-nudity clause in her contract, and whether a 3D rendering of her body would qualify for the purposes of an Appropriation claim (there's some case law indicating that it might qualify). Basically, there are a lot of unknowns.
Here's what makes the whole thing even more fascinating: Sony, Beyond's distributor, is also the distributor for The Last of Us. This puts them in an awkward situation vis-a-vis their relationship with Page. Twice in one year she's become a victim of a high-profile game they released. And once the pictures are out in the world, they're out there; there's no getting them back.
It'll be interesting to see if Page decides to pursue the matter legally. In the meantime, I'm sure she's learned her lesson: no more video games with Sony.